In the wake of the tragedy in Newtown, I am grateful for the feast of St. Thomas. “Doubting Thomas” is how most of us remember him. When the disciples tell Thomas of their post-resurrection encounter with Jesus, Thomas refuses to believe unless he sees it himself – and not just sees, but touches Jesus’ wounds. Talk about a literal, tangible faith!
Sometimes I think Thomas gets a bad rep. Everyone likes to wag their fingers at Thomas, shaking their heads at his silly lack of faith. Not only does this behavior disregard how utterly unimaginable Jesus’ resurrection was, this behavior also ignores the times when we too have been doubters.
Just this past week alone, in the face of unimaginable cruelty and suffering, many of us have doubted God’s presence. Our faith took a real hit as we struggled to make sense of the tragedy. We all struggle with doubt from time to time – even if we are embarrassed to admit it. In fact, I think most of us are embarrassed, which is why we do not talk about doubt enough and why we finger wag at someone like Thomas instead of ourselves.
The gift of Thomas today is his permission. Thomas’ witness is that struggling with our faith is okay. In fact, Jesus will stay in relationship with us and will help us along the way. I don’t think Jesus just happens to stop by the second time – he knew Thomas needed to see him. Thomas’s life and witness encourages us to be fully human and honest in our faith journey – acknowledging those times when doubt is our overriding experience.
There is a modern cartoon floating around the Internet that recalls the story about “Footprints in the Sand.” The man asks why there is only one set of footprints, as though Jesus left him – but Jesus clarifies that he was carrying the man then. But in the cartoon, Jesus also says, “That long groove over there is when I dragged you for a while.” The cartoon is meant to be funny, but I think it further highlights how infinitely accepting and patient Jesus is with our faith journey – including the doubts. Being honest about the fullness of our faith experience is the invitation from Thomas today. Thank you, Thomas, for encouraging us into an honest faith walk.